By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Oklahoma senior pitcher Paige Parker was as good as advertised Thursday night.
The All-American shut down the Big 12’s leading offense, limiting the Lady Bears to just two hits as No. 2 Oklahoma extended its winning streak to 20-games with a 5-0 shutout in game one of an Easter weekend series.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said Oklahoma played perfect softball and that his team did their best to counter that performance.
“ I thought we fought today. We were going to defend our home turf, and they were just that good tonight,” Moore said. “I thought they played flawless, Oklahoma, and we made a few mistakes.”
Baylor junior Gia Rodoni did her best to match Parker in the circle and give the Lady Bears a chance. Rodoni kept the Sooners, the two-time defending National Champions and second ranked offense in the Big 12 scoreless for the first four innings.
But as the pitches began to add up, so did Oklahoma’s scoring chances. And the Sooners made Rodoni pay.
Rodoni said the Sooners are so talented and balanced throughout, it was difficult to work through their lineup a third and fourth time through.
“Its hard to keep the batters off balance after facing them so many times. Its just difficult keeping thing fresh with them,” Rodoni said. “Its just a tough lineup all the way through. Oklahoma came in prepared and knew what they were going to get. I tip my hat off to them.”
The frame opened with a perfectly placed bunt single by senior shortstop Kelsey Arnold. Rodoni fired back to retire the next two hitters, but sophomore outfielder Nicole Mendes went the other way with a pitch up in the zone, roping it off the base of the wall in left-center field, scoring the runner all the way from first.
The Sooners then got some insurance for Parker in the sixth inning. With two outs and the bases empty, senior catcher Lea Wodach ripped a bullet right at the head of senior third baseman Caitlin Charlton that tipped off her glove for a single. Rodoni then issued a four-pitch walk to Arnold in the eight hole and junior outfielder Falepolima Aviu laced a double to the gap for a 2-0 lead.
Junior infielder Sydney Romero then sent a bouncer back up the middle just out of reach of sophomore shortstop Taylor Ellis’ glove, scoring a pair.
Rodoni would start the seventh, but would give way to sophomore Goose McGlaun after a pair of walks to open the inning. McGlaun was able to limit the damage to just one more for the Sooners.
Mendes led the way for Oklahoma with three hits, a double and an RBI. Romero drove in two for the Sooners and Aviu had two hits and scored twice.
Baylor did manage to contain freshman designated player Jocelyn Alo. She was hitless in two at bats, but was intentionally walked twice.
As good as Parker was in the circle for Oklahoma, the Lady Bears did have their chances.
In the first, sophomore second baseman Nicky Dawson was drilled by a pitch high and tight and junior outfielder Kyla Walker singled over the head of the shortstop to put two on with nobody out. But Parker got senior outfielder Jessie Scroggins to pop up a bunt and then got seniors, catcher Carlee Wallace and first baseman Shelby Friudenberg to pop out to end the inning.
Then again in the third, the Lady Bears put two runners in scoring position, but came away empty-handed.
Walker reached on a fielder’s choice and Scroggins roped a single to right and took second on Mendes’ throw to third. Parker then got Wallace on a flyball to right field.
In the fourth, Baylor got a runner to second with two outs, but could not bring her home. Parker also got help from her defense, as Pendley laid out in shallow center to take away a hit from Dawson in the fifth.
Moore said his team battled against Parker, but in order to get the win against a pitcher like her, you have to score runs and score early.
“You really need to put the pressure on them early and get in that driver’s seat with a team that aggressive and that good,” Moore said. “We did have some chances and we had good at-bats, but we just didn’t have the outcome. I thought we had quality at-bats against Parker for a long time and she didn’t have that many strikeouts. But we just couldn’t get the production. Hats off to them. They play good defense and she’s dictating a lot of the results and her ball moves. You’ve got to punch first and play good defense.”
Just as the Oklahoma offense got stronger as the game went on, so did Parker, who sent the Baylor lineup down with little resistance in the sixth and seventh.
Parker earned her 16th win of the season, while Rodoni (12-5) took the loss.
Walker and Scroggins had the only two hits for Baylor.
“We have to move forward. We can’t think about what we did today,” Walker said. “We were all putting the balls in play and the balls have to fall some time, so if we keep hitting the ball and putting it in play, I think they’re going to fall.”
No. 15 Baylor (20-7, 0-1) and No. 2 Oklahoma (29-2, 4-0) will play game two at 6:30 p.m. Friday.